Best known as the rumpled television detective Columbo, character actor Peter Falk also enjoyed a successful film career, often in association with the groundbreaking independent filmmaker John Cassavetes. Born September 16, 1927, in New York City, Falk lost an eye at the age of three, resulting in the odd, squinting gaze which later became his trademark. He initially pursued a career in public administration, serving as an efficiency expert with the Connecticut Budget Bureau, but in the early '50s, boredom with his work sparked an interest in acting. By 1955, Falk had turned professional, and an appearance in a New York production of The Iceman Cometh earned him much attention. He soon graduated to Broadway and in 1958 made his feature debut in the Nicholas Ray/Budd Schulberg drama Wind Across the Everglades.
A diminutive, stocky, and unkempt presence, Falk's early screen roles often portrayed him as a blue-collar type or as a thug; it was as the latter in 1960's Murder Inc. that he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, a major career boost. He was nominated in the same category the following year as well, this time as a sarcastic bodyguard in Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles. In 1962, Falk won an Emmy for his work in the television film The Price of Tomatoes, a presentation of the Dick Powell Theater series. The steady stream of accolades made him a hot property, and he next starred in the 1962 feature Pressure Point. A cameo in Stanley Kramer's 1963 smash It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World preceded Falk's appearance in the Rat Pack outing Robin and the Seven Hoods, but the film stardom many predicted for him always seemed just out of reach, despite lead roles in 1965's The Great Race and 1967's Luv.